HOW TO GET FRESH VEGETABLES AT HOME?. It was a simple question that play around for most urban citizens. Most Malaysians are hit by rising costs and the evil GST with not many able to save their money is to grow your own food. Normally to get fresh eating food and literally from your hand-sown seeds isn’t exactly a new idea, what more with the government asking KL citizens to do it. While it may be doable for residents with a plot of land, what about those who live in condominiums who have little to no space to farm?. For me that stays in Malaysian City Capital for many years is adaptable to get the vegetables from Hypermarket around us. Nowadays with the rising cost of living, many Malaysians find it difficult to own landed properties at decent prices, which is why condominiums seem to be the preferred choice nowadays. As of early 2014, the Real Estate Housing Developers Association recorded most of us living in the 1.5 million units of flats, condominiums and service apartments in Malaysia. The question is can living in pigeon holes create a favourable environment for Malaysians to grow their own vegetable patch? And for me the answer is 'YES'. If you don’t even need to be an experienced farmer to make this work. How do we know this? Well… This blog "Anim Agriculture Technology" writer started her vegetable supply right in their housing compound or her condominium balcony. They will found land too expensive and even buying a house with a garden was too much, but the urge to grow her own food to be creative. Learning from her neighbours and being part of the team that set up Putrajaya, Precint 9 Edible Project helped the pair convert pots, containers and other storage items into ‘beds’ where their green babies can grow. Department of Agriculture (Urban Agriculture Division) are able to assist urban residents to grow their own fresh vegetables..
What type of vegetable to grow?.
1. Cabbage (Kobis Bunga)
Cabbage head or round cabbage are easily grown with the difficulty level scored at 3/10 according to the scale. The round cabbage are normally grown in cold weather but actually the cabbages grow easily but you have to be patient. You’ll need to wait four to five months before eating it. Sow the seeds in dark and organic soil a dark coloured soil is an indication of healthy soil and plants need nutrients to survive. But actually once it grows into a little seedling, you can transfer it to a bigger pot. Don’t forget to water regularly, and let it see the sun often too. Trimming the leaves speeds up the cabbage to form that head that you see often in the market.
2. Genovese Basil
These crop are originally grown from seed and easy to handle compare to other vegetables. But it scores 3/10 in difficulty level but not for me. Normally most people can cheat by buying the RM5.00 potted plants from Cold Storage supermarket, but why take short cuts?. Grow them from seeds to go with your homemade special pizza or pesto sauce for your pasta nights. Pluck the leaves off regularly so it encourages fresh leaves to grow. Water and sun regularly. Actually you have to ‘prune‘ it too, which actually means to cut regularly to help fresh leaves grow. Old leaves will discourage the plant from ‘going to seed’ too fast, hence super-speeding their ageing process. ‘Going to seed’ means that the plant is at the end of its life cycle, so if you were to leave it alone, the plant would think that it’s time to ‘die’ soon, hence it produces seed to procreate. Typically, this can happen in a month or two. So if you want to have a longer supply of basil, cutting it regularly will spur the growth of new leaves. It is a weird relationship, but it seems to work.
KANGKONG(Impomea aquatica) are one of the popular vgetables gron by Malaysian. To grow kangkong is the easiest to do with difficulty level only scored at 1/10. Kangkong considered the cheapest leafy vegetables but some people says why bother growing it? As an agronomist, I prefer to grow and consume kangkong because it is so easy to grow and saving most of urban citizen a trip to the shops. Think of the time you save from finding parking, queuing to pay and driving home from the supermarket. Kangkung has a hollow trunk and it loves water. But it is a hardy plant that can be ‘abused’, it won’t be upset if you forget to water it for a few days or even weeks. The young leaves look like claws and when it is older, you can eat the white flowers, known as morning glory as well. The Thais always have it in their menu, stir-fried with chillies or plain with garlic.
4. Edamame beans
This beans is medium easy to grow in small area. It's difficulty level scores at 4/10. This favourite Japanese appetiser can be grown on balconies or in containers. Sowed similarly like the other vegetables, water it every three days and make sure it also gets sunlight. It doesn’t climb like vines so it won’t be needing support such as sticks or railing. It grows like a shrub and you should be able to pick the beans in two to three months time. So after your little seeds show its first seedling, move the plant into a medium size pot. Despite thee beans having a furry skin, the biggest problem with this sweet bean is that tree shrews are going steal them first.
5. Tomatoes (and cucumbers)
TOMATO and CUCUMBER are easy purchased from supermarket and nearby wet market. Actually we can use egg cartons to house your seedlings, on the left cucumbers and right tomatoes. To grow tomato need difficulty level at 4/10. These red jewels are happy in confined spaces as heat and humidity is not really a deterrent, but fruit flies are. So head on to Daiso to get those tiny nets and bag each fruit as you see it form. It requires regular watering and sunlight. Tomatoes love calcium, so an easy way of getting this mineral to them is by crushing some eggshells and scattering the broken bits at the foot of the plant. Cucumbers are a little more fussy. You have to grow it near a railing allow it to climb, feed it plenty of water and fertiliser, and you should get tiny little cucumbers to eat.
Tis crop are known as Lettuce or Salad and eaten fresh or semi cooked. The lettuce (Lactuca sativa) are grown at the difficulty level 3/10. You can turn your balcony into a salad bar with this ‘ang moh’ vegetable. Keep them watered regularly and away from direct sunlight. If you have a medium-sized or large box, you can sow the seeds directly in this huge container without transferring it from smaller pots as we have done with the other plants. If you want to really get into the ‘farm’ mode, grow them in rows, and it should line up nicely. Green salad leaves can be ready to eat in three to five months time. Snails love them too, and if you’re living on the ground floor, these slimy leave eaters can get to it, slowly but easily. You can crush some egg shells and scatter them around the lettuce leaves, this deters the snails as they don’t like to glide over the pokey shells. Egg shells are a natural source of calcium too. The lettuce you grow may not be in supermarket sizes, so you may have to grow twice the amount you want to eat.
7. Choy Sum
This vegetable are easy to grow in urban area with hydroponic system or grow at your own in a planter box. It difficulty level at 3/10. This vegetables are literally translated from Cantonese as Heart Veggie (or vegetable with a heart), it can grow easily in pots or seen here in a planter box, where you hang it off the railing. When you handle the seeds, be careful not to lose them. They are super tiny (kind of like mustard seeds), so it’s best to have delicate hands when you are sowing them. Place them in a tiny pot with soil and water, and once they sprout say about four inches off the soil, you can transfer them into a bigger container. Planting choy sum together makes them ‘compete’ with each other, hence making them grow faster. You’ll need to water regularly and provide them with plenty of sunlight. The leaves are naturally sweet, so you have to beware of pests. You can deter snails with the eggshell tip the same way you protect your lettuce, as its jaggedly edges discourages snails from getting close to your plants. Thanks.